Baby Names: Spelling Counts

July 26, 2016 Abby Sandel

She’s found the perfect name for her Fall 2016 baby. But how to spell it? The Name Sage wades into the data to find the best answer – but wants to hear your opinion, too! 

Lindsey writes:

I’m trying to decide on a name for my little girl and I’m stuck.

The options are either just Calli or a longer version of the name, like Calianna. (You pronounce the –anna like Anna in Frozen.) Or maybe Calli (first name) with Anna (middle name) – except I might merge it into Calianna anyway.

I like short and simple, but I like the longer name, too. But will spelling be a problem? Pronunciation?

My name doesn’t really have nicknames, so it’s always been pretty simple! I’d love some input.

The Name Sage replies:

I think many parents end up debating long versus short. Short names can feel breezy and modern. Longer names come with options – casual or formal, tailored or romantic – and those have their appeal, too.

In many cases, parents really only like the short form, and write in looking for permission to skip the formal name. But that doesn’t sound like your situation at all.

Instead, it sounds like you love Calianna, and like Calli as a sometimes option. After all, your favorite middle name for Calli is … Anna.

There’s no downside to using the longer name, even if it turns out that your daughter prefers the nickname. After all, shortening Calianna to Cali seems as natural as calling Elizabeth Liz or Samantha Sam.

So the question becomes Calianna or Callianna? Or some other spelling entirely?

The name is rare; it’s not in the current US Top 1000 in any spelling. But it’s not unknown, either. In 2015, over 150 girls received some form of the name. In order of popularity, they are:

  • Caliana, 57 girls
  • Kaliana, 41 girls
  • Calianna, 32 girls
  • Kalianna, 23 girls
  • Kaliannah, 10 girls
  • Calliana, 5 girls

As for Cali, the most common spelling is actually Callie, but Cali isn’t too far behind. Kali is also in the current US Top 1000. Based on these small numbers, I think Calianna is perfectly reasonable, but if you prefer to use the most common form it would be Caliana, nickname Cali. That’s pretty consistent with similar names – Eliana and Liliana are the most common spellings, too.

Now, a quick reality check: many unusual names are misspelled and mispronounced. That’s likely to be the case with a name like Calianna, at least some of the time!

If this keeps you up at night, you might want to consider another elaborate, romantic name with built-in nicknames – but one with a more commonly accepted spelling and pronunciation. Some thoughts would be Giovanna, Clarissa, Tatiana, or Audrina.

But if you don’t mind a little bit of repetition, Calianna feels like a very 2016 name for a daughter. She’ll fit right in with girls named Elianna, Juliana, and Lillianna. It’s a romantic choice that comes with options – and it sounds like you’re already in love with the name!

Just to be sure, though, let’s a have a quick poll. I’m curious to see if the readers have a different opinion about the best spelling.

About the author


Abby Sandel is nameberry's Senior Editor and resident Name Sage. Look for her baby name news round-ups every Monday, and her Name Sage columns on Wednesdays. Abby is the creator of the baby name blog Appellation Mountain and mom to Alex and Clio. For a chance to have your questions answered, contact Abby at

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